Harrell all but transcends musical labels. He's a jazz trumpeter known for his burnished tone and lyrical improvisational style but his music runs the gamut from the modal and melodic to uncommon modernisms that sonically broach the film soundtrack and/or the avant-garde. Never content to stay the course, he continues to explore and expand his musical vision with each new project. For almost 50 years, he has steadily created new music, building a formidable body of work. Harrell's discography is a mile long; he's made over 270 recordings, won Down Beat and JazzTimes polls many times over and has been nominated for numerous Grammy awards. His compositions are much in demand; among the many artists who've recorded or performed his work include Carlos Santana, Cold Blood, Azteca, Vince Guaraldi, Hank Jones, Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Joe Lovano, Chris Potter, Kenny Werner, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Danish Radio Big Band, Germany's WDR Big Band, Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Amsterdam's Metropole Jazz Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lorraine and Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.
Born in Urbana Illinois and raised in Los Altos, California, Harrell studied music composition at Stanford University. After playing with Stan Kenton and Woody Herman, he moved to NY in the early 1970s to join the quintet of Horace Silver, with whom he made five albums. He's been based in NY since but is often on the road, performing to audiences world-wide. His musical associations include those with Sam Jones (with whom he co-led a big band in the late 70s), Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Phil Woods, Charlie Haden, Art Farmer, Joe Lovano, Jane Monheit, Kathleen Battle, and Sheila Jordan, Philip Catherine, and Jim Hall. Over the course of his career, he's led his own trios, quartets, quintets, big bands, chamber orchestras and ensembles.